I have coped the following excerpt from a book written by Henry J.M. Nouwen titled “A Quality of Heart”.
Henry Nouwen was an author of more than 40 books, is considered one of the great spiritual writers of modern times. He taught at the University of Notre Dame, Harvard, and Yale, but shared the last ten years of his life with people with mental handicaps, as pastor of the l’Arche Daybreak community in Toronto, Canada.
“In discussing solitude and the need for it, three words are important: aloneness, loneliness, and solitude. You and I and all people are alone. Aloneness is a natural fact. No one else in the world is like me: I am unique. No one else feels and experiences the world the way I do: I am alone.
Now, how do I deal with my aloneness? Many people deal with it through loneliness. That means you experience your aloneness as a wound, as something that hurts you, makes you miserable. It makes you cry out, “Is there anyone who can help me?” Loneliness is one of the greatest sources of suffering today. It is the disease of our time.
But, as Christians, we are called to convert our loneliness into solitude. We are called to experience our aloneness not as a wound but as a gift – as God’s gift – so that in our aloneness we might discover how deeply we are loved by God.
It is precisely where we are most alone, most unique, most ourselves, that God is closer to us. That is where we experience God as the divine, loving Father, who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Solitude is the way in which we grow into the realization that where we are most alone, we are most loved by God. It is a quality of heart, an inner quality that helps us to accept our aloneness lovingly, as a gift from God.
In that place our activities become activities done for the other. If we accept our aloneness as a gift from God, and convert it into deep solitude, then out of that solitude we can reach out to other people. We can come together in community, because we don’t cling to one another. Rather, we bow to one another’s solitude. We recognize one another as people who are called by the same God.
If I find God in my solitude, and you find God in your solitude, then the same God calls us together, and we can become friends. We can form a community, we can sustain a marriage, we can be together without destroying each other by clinging to each other.”
Lorraine Taylor – Lay Minister